Ipswich nurses who plug staffing gaps say they are considering “leaving for night shifts at Tesco” after a pay cut of around 20% was announced.

East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) nurses who work through the NHS Professionals bank – a register of staff who sign up to work at short notice to cover staff sickness, or to pick up extra shifts at busy times - received an email during the first week of March to say their pay will be reduced by around £5 an hour.

The trust said the changes, which will come into force on April 1, would align bank staff with the pay of those on permanent contracts for a “fair and consistent approach”.

However, nurses in hospitals and the community describe it as a “kick in the teeth”, as nurses in the bank do not receive sick pay, pensions, or other benefits.

They are also concerned that bank nurses will leave for other, similarly paid jobs, causing more dramatic staff shortages in the NHS.

Steph Garfield, an Ipswich community nurse who has worked in Suffolk for 23 years, said: “We had an email out of the blue. The contempt in which we are held is horrendous.

“We fill in shifts nobody else wants. I now have to work six days to earn what I did in five days.”

Alice Phillips, an A&E nurse in Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals, said she will lose around £187 as week.

Ms Phillips said: “I saw an advert for an outpatient receptionist, and it’s not much less than our pay reduction.

"You don’t need any qualifications to be in the administrative reception role. It’s a kick in the teeth.

East Anglian Daily Times: Alice Phillips outside Colchester Hospital.Alice Phillips outside Colchester Hospital. (Image: Contributed)

“Many of us are saying we will look for other work, and I would say around 20-30% of nurses on every shift are bank.”

Other nurses told the Star they would be leaving for alternative employment. One who is a single mom, added: “I work on bank for the flexibility, to be able to work around having my son.

East Anglian Daily Times: Steph Garfield said: 35 years service for a 19% pay cut.Steph Garfield said: 35 years service for a 19% pay cut. (Image: Contributed)

“I will be losing £700-£800 a month. I’ve already looked at night shift work in Tesco. It pays pretty much the same as what our pay will be cut to.

"Why would I have all the stress when I could just stack shelves?"

Kate Read, director of people and organisational development at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), said: “We value the dedication and commitment of all staff who work bank shifts in our hospitals.

“This change to rates provides equity for all staff, whether they work on substantive or bank contracts, and follows the nationally negotiated agreements on pay. It aligns our rates with neighbouring and regional NHS trusts and the national framework.

“Enhanced rates have historically been paid where there have been higher vacancies in some roles (NHS Agenda for Change bands 5 to 7).

“Now those vacancy rates are much improved, and we have more staff in substantive roles, we no longer need to incentivise these roles above others. This means we can have a fair system for all, including staff on lower pay bands, and provide best value for NHS money.”